With the fast-mounting cases of COVID-19 and the need to shelter in place in 2020, the US began increasingly turning to telehealth (remote healthcare using telecommunications technology) to keep people at home, reduce the risk of contagion, and help patients stay healthy and informed.
Before that, this new, dramatic step in modern medicine was slowly making its way to the mainstream. In fact, the US government only recently broadened the scope of telehealth services covered by Medicare, the federally-sponsored health insurance program for people 65 or older. But the sudden urgency made the use of telehealth instantaneously widespread, and accepted. Now patients across the country can receive a wide range of remote care services – normal primary care and specialized-medicine office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive care advice – from the comfort of their homes. In cases of required care, it’s covered by most insurance, too.
So what exactly is “telehealth”? In this article, you’ll learn what telehealth is, the benefits of telehealth, and why it’s quickly becoming an important part of managing and reversing diabetes and obesity and of monitoring your overall health.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth simply refers to healthcare-related activities that are executed online or via phone. But it isn’t just about live phone or video visits with your primary care physician or specialist. It also encompasses a growing array of at-home technology – apps, devices, and wearables – that track your vital health information, can transmit any gathered data to your healthcare providers, and help your providers make more informed healthcare decisions. Telehealth could be:
- A doctor consulting with a patient on a video call
- The ability to directly contact and have email exchanges with your physician through an online portal
- The monitoring of vitals and biomarkers through wearables, devices, and apps
- The online exchange of test results between healthcare facilities
- Two physicians discussing a medical matter via online chat
- A neurologist monitoring potential stroke patients from afar using “telestroke” technology
- A remotely controlled robot-assisted surgery
- And much more
Telehealth Terms to Know
Before discussing the benefits of telehealth in more detail, it’s important to define a few key terms.
- Telehealth: the term used to encompass all digital healthcare activities, including administrative functions.
- Telemedicine: often used as a synonym for telehealth, telemedicine actually refers to specific clinical services provided to patients.
- Remote patient monitoring: the use of digital technology to collect health data (pulse, blood pressure, glucose levels, ketone levels, weight, etc.) from a patient, then transmit that data to healthcare providers for analysis and treatment recommendations.
- Remote coaching: when a patient signs up for remote coaching, they receive health and wellness counseling from a distance. This counseling can be one-on-one coaching with a provider, or via an app.
- API/API integration: API stands for application programming interface, and refers to a set of rules and functions governing how a piece of software works. API integration is the ability of two online systems to communicate with each other and exchange data. The concept of API integration is especially relevant to the success of app-based telehealth programs. API integration ensures your health data (your daily blood pressure, for instance) is securely and accurately transmitted from your testing device to your provider.
Telehealth Technology In Action
There are two key benefits to telehealth technology. The first is obvious: You can now connect with your care provider without being in the same room or even the same continent. The second is less obvious but extremely powerful: You can now gather, evaluate, and share with your health care providers your own personal health stats.
Not sure what we mean? Consider this: with the benefit of digital technology, suddenly even simple home measuring devices, such as a scale, can be a powerful telehealth device. Every time you step on a “smart” scale, it records your current body weight and sends the data to an app on your phone. That data can then be presented to both you and your physician to give a better, fuller picture of your ongoing status and help your provider coach you and make dietary and lifestyle decisions based on real, evolving information.
Beyond smart scales, there are many other telehealth-friendly apps and devices. These include:
- Wearables like Fitbit devices and the Oura Ring that track sleep, heart rate, and activity levels
- Apps like MDHealth, Doctor On Demand, and Express Care Virtual that connect patients directly with physicians
- Apps like Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, and Carb Manager that track nutrition information like calories and macros
- Devices like the Keto-Mojo meter that record biomarkers like glucose, ketones, and GKI.
In fact, ketone and glucose tracking devices are making a big difference in the fight against diabetes. More on that later.
Consumer Benefits of Telehealth
As technology advances, the benefits of telehealth continue to manifest. Here are five solid reasons telehealth is an important and very real part of our medical care, present and future:
#1: Prevents the spread of infectious disease
SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus) is a highly contagious pathogen that causes a disease called COVID-19. To mitigate the global health consequences of COVID-19, telehealth became a critical means of receiving health care while avoiding the potential exposure to the virus at medical centers. Telehealth allows patients and healthcare professionals to communicate remotely without risking a potentially lethal infection.
#2: Allows greater access to healthcare
Many people live dozens of miles from a modern healthcare facility, especially in rural areas. With the benefit of technology, however, these people can receive care and counseling at home.
But you don’t have to live in the boondocks to utilize telehealth to your advantage; for example, if you’ve got a sick child at home, a video visit with the physician can help ease minds and provide the best next steps.
Additionally, the ease of use and affordability is proving instrumental in allowing for greater ongoing access to physicians. For example, San Diego, California-based internist and telehealth practitioner Dr. Brian Lenzkes began transitioning to telemedicine upon realizing that without the costs of a large office, abundant staff, and insurance-related red tape, he can offer patients ongoing care and coaching and easy access while charging close to the same amount as a $75 copay – all without involving insurance. An added benefit: “You have the peace of mind that you can always call your doctor. It’s like having AAA,” explains Dr. Lenzkes.
#3: Saves time
Even if you don’t live too far from your doctor, it’s a schlep to get in and out of a doctor’s appointment. There’s the transportation time, time spent in the waiting room, the intake nurse checkup, the visit itself (often with delays by the physician), and then the journey back to your home or office. This can easily amount to three or more hours to spend about 15 minutes with your doctor. Telehealth eliminates all but the visit itself, so appointments tend to start on time. Needless to say, the time savings add up quickly.
In the half an hour it takes to come to see me, you can do something else, like go for a walk. – Dr. Tro Kalayjian, New York-based weight loss specialist
Saving time was a big reason that New York-based weight loss specialist Dr. Tro Kalayjian started implementing telehealth into his medical practice. “In the half an hour it takes to come to see me,” he remarks, “You can do something else, like go for a walk.” Dr. Tro, as he’s known to patients, is mainly focused on helping obese clients lose weight through proper nutrition. (This includes helping folks get started with the keto diet). Dr. Tro has a deeply personal connection to this area, having been obese into his young adult years. Now that he’s lost the weight, he wants to help others do the same, and telehealth is a big part of that.
#4: Engages and motivates patients
In situations where telehealth is used to track your physical status, progress, or both, seeing ongoing results can have a significant effect on your motivation to stick to your goals. Why? As the old business maxim goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” When you digitally track weight, blood pressure, glucose, ketones, and other biomarkers over time, it creates a sense of accountability. This accountability increases the chance that you will make positive diet and lifestyle changes. Tracking also allows you to see – in real-time – the effects of what you do and eat. Based on this insight, you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
#5: Provides insight to healthcare professionals
The days of the yearly checkup are gone. Telehealth gives doctors and other clinicians a steady stream of data to make better decisions. Suddenly, your health status is a moving picture, not a once-a-year snapshot. For example, if you’re tracking your glucose and your care provider notices your glucose levels ticking upwards, your care provider might schedule a consultation to discuss the causes and ramifications of this trend, including what you can do to lower your glucose and consequently reduce your risk of diabetes.
Telehealth For Obesity and Diabetes
Speaking of diabetes, with the aid of apps, devices, and online programs, patients with diabetes, obesity, or both are seeing remarkable progress in reversing these conditions. For instance, having patients measure ketone levels daily, then sharing this data with their provider, provides a level of accountability previously unseen in healthcare.
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that telehealth-based interventions are effective for treating both diabetes and obesity, which is encouraging, since effectively managing these conditions decreases the risk for nearly every chronic disease.
In one study published in March of 2020, researchers assigned 25 obese people to either a telehealth group (with weekly remote coaching) or a self-directed group. The results? The telehealth group not only complied better with the program – they also lost more weight.
Another analysis found that after four months of app-based health coaching, participants lost 3.23 percent of their total body weight, on average. About one-third of the 763 participants achieved “clinically significant” weight loss, an average of nearly 10 percent total body weight!
Yet the most striking telehealth success is probably that of Virta Health, an online, doctor-supervised program created to manage and reverse type 2 diabetes. The program is designed to keep patients in nutritional ketosis (0.5 to 3.0 mmol/L) by having them eat a ketogenic diet.
Multiple studies, including one sponsored by Virta Health, have shown a ketogenic diet to be effective diabetes medicine. Here are the results from one year of the Virta Health program on 218 type 2 diabetics:
- 60 percent reversed their diabetes (average HbA1C dropped from 7.6 percent to 6.3 percent)
- 94 percent reduced or eliminated insulin therapy
- Average weight loss was 30.4 pounds
- Average triglycerides decreased 24 percent
How does Virta Health ensure patients comply with the program? By having them measure ketone levels.
Measuring Ketones In Telehealth
Measuring ketones, and ensuring you stay in ketosis (by consistently keeping your ketones up) is effective diabetes medicine, but only if the patient complies with the high-fat, low-carb regimen of the keto diet. Fortunately, there exists a specific biomarker – the ketone – to track this compliance. Ketones are molecules, produced through fat burning, that serve as a backup energy source to glucose for your body and brain. If your body doesn’t have carbs to burn, it turns to ketones. As evidence continues to build for the keto diet, patients are increasingly measuring ketone levels along with blood glucose levels. (Blood glucose levels indicate one’s progression towards type 2 diabetes).
A Word from the Keto-Mojo Team about Keto-Mojo Tools and Telehealth
At Keto-Mojo, our aim is to empower you to optimize and manage your health through a healthy ketogenic lifestyle. Since our founding, we have recognized the benefits, importance, and role of telehealth in this pursuit. So, shortly after launching our blood glucose and ketone testing meter, we created an app, integrated APIs and other nifty tools to help you leverage your test results, empower you to better manage your health, and improve your diet and overall well-being.
Following are all the Keto-Mojo telehealth tools you can use:
The Keto-Mojo meter: Unlike other devices on the market, the Keto-Mojo meter measures both glucose and ketones in an affordable, convenient manner to improve outcomes for patients for weight loss, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other chronic illnesses that benefit from ketosis. Beyond accurate point-in-time measurements, the Keto-Mojo device allows you to:
- Track glucose, ketones, and the glucose-ketone index (GKI) over time with the Keto-Mojo app, available free for iOS and Android.
- Sync glucose and ketone data with a smartphone via Bluetooth connectivity.
- Remotely share glucose and ketone data easily with healthcare providers via secure API integration.
- Feel comfortable that your data is secure because the app and servers are HIPAA compliant.
The Keto-Mojo Bluetooth meter: The Keto-Mojo meter is Bluetooth enabled and allows you to instantly sync your blood glucose and ketone test results from your meter to your smartphone.
The Keto Mojo Classic app for iOS and Android: This app allows you to track and filter your data and upload your readings to select health management platforms, including Apple Health.
The ability to import or export your readings via CSV file so you can share your readings with any professional via email. In the case that you are not synced with your provider online or able to share data directly from the app, this tool allows you to share the data with anyone with an email address.
Secure encrypted API (application program interface): If you’re a health professional and would like your EHR (electronic health record) system to connect your patient data automatically, please contact us.
SDK (Software Development Kit): We’ve developed a software kit so that we can partner strategically with health companies in order to connect natively to other apps. If you have an app and would like to integrate it, please contact us.
The bottom line? The Keto-Mojo meter, through accurate measurement and secure data sharing, helps both individuals and providers achieve therapeutic success with the ketogenic diet. It’s a tool to track metabolic health over time.
Contact us for a free consultation on integrations with Keto-Mojo glucose, ketone, and GKI readings.
The Final Word
The coronavirus global pandemic kept people home and pushed telehealth into the forefront as a way to safely connect with care providers from the comfort of their own home. Remote care is the new reality and there’s no going back now.
But telehealth isn’t just about preventing the spread of a contagion. It’s also about increasing access to care, spurring patient engagement, and providing you and doctors better insight into your health.
With the benefit of telehealth, the world has already made significant strides against obesity and diabetes. As technology improves, telehealth improves along with it. Keto-Mojo provides many tools to empower you to leverage telehealth to your benefit. The pandemic inspiration may be dark, but the future of telehealth is bright. The more technology permeates healthcare, the better healthcare will become.